Back in the day, becoming a cannabis connoisseur was all about who you knew. Chances are, your first marijuana experience occurred because you knew someone who could get their hands on the ganja. Then you learned how to roll a joint or how to pack a bowl by watching your friend’s older brother do it. You continued learning the whys-and-wherefores of the Mary Jane culture by watching those around you.
It was very much a master-and-apprentice-type learning process. We learned everything we needed to know—how to score a bag, how to smoke a nug, how to pack a bowl—from someone who had done it before. Once we were comfortable with the process (or just really enthusiastic about the scene), we would graduate to doing it all ourselves. It was at that point, then, that we became the master and could pass on our knowledge to any apprentice who cared to watch.
As the legalization of recreational marijuana continues to spread across the country, getting high has gone from being about who you know to being about where you live. Now, first-time users can walk into a head shop and buy their first bag without knowing much, if anything, about the smoking experience. We’re not saying this is a bad thing—we couldn’t be happier that cannabis is finally legal. What we are saying is that the knowledge many newbie weed smokers gain from their friends has been replaced by internet searches and trial and error.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll take the place of your cousin’s friend and become your go-to source for all things chronic. For those of you wanna-be weed smokers wondering how to get started on the road to nirvana (the transcendent state, not the band), think of us as your canna-master. Come sit quietly at our feet, take in our knowledge, and get started on the road to enlightenment. Our lesson today is a basic one: How to pack a bowl.
How To Pack A Bowl: What You’ll Need
This one’s pretty obvious so we won’t stay here long.
For beginners, lightweights, and those of a low-tolerance threshold, choose a strain that is:
High in CBD
Low in THC
Harlequin (sativa) or Pennywise (indica) are good starting points for the high-CBD variety while Maui Waui (sativa), Plushberry (indica), and Chernobyl (hybrid) are good starting points for the low-THC variety.
Bong Or Bowl
The bowl we refer to in the title of this article isn’t something from which you eat cereal (although there’s a Fruity Pebbles pun in there somewhere). Rather, it’s a smaller piece of a much larger smoking apparatus: the bong.
Bongs come in all shapes and sizes and can be made out of some pretty unique materials. Regardless of their appearance, they all pretty much have the same components (see above). The bowl is a funnel-shaped piece that holds the cannabis and makes it easier to light. As you might have guessed (because of the presence of this article), there’s more to the process than just jamming some bud into the bowl and applying a flame. Packing the bowl correctly can mean the difference between a good smoke and a bad smoke.
Smoking is all about burning and burning requires a flame. Matches are good. A lighter is better. A blow torch is overkill. You’ll be applying the flame multiple times and you don’t want the hassle of striking a match every 30 seconds. Get a cheap, disposable lighter and get ready to feel groovy.
This one is optional but it makes the experience all the more enjoyable (they don’t call it couch-lock for nothing). Actually, any comfy spot will do. The couch is just the most ubiquitous.
Now that we’ve got the basic necessities out of the way, let’s get to the how-to of packing a bowl.
Step 1: Remove The Bowl From The Bong
If possible, remove the bowl from the bong. This is done so that you don’t accidently knock over the bong. It is also done so that stray bud doesn’t fall into the water chamber.
Should a rogue bit of ganja find its way into the downstem, it can be removed and repacked in the bowl where it will have the most benefit.
Step 2: Choose A Nug
Break off (or find) one or two nuggets that are slightly larger than the hole at the bottom of the bowl (leading to the downstem). After removing any seeds and stems, place these pieces at the bottom of the bowl. These pieces will act as support for the smaller bits of weed you’ll place on top and prevent you from sucking everything into the water chamber (known as “snapping the bowl”).
You don’t want to block the hole completely as that will prevent air flow. That’s why two smallish pieces are often better than one large piece—they allow air to flow around and through the hole into the downstem.
Step 3: Break Up The Weed
Gather another nugget of marijuana from your stash, remove any seeds and stems and, while holding it over the bowl, rip it into small pieces with your fingers. The finer you make it, the easier it is to pack in the bowl and the better it will burn. You want to rip enough so that the marijuana mounds above the rim of the bowl but doesn’t fall out.
Some may suggest that you use a grinder to get the weed as fine as possible but we feel this is an unnecessary step for bong smoking. If you were rolling a joint, putting your cannabis through a grinder would be a great idea. But we’re not rolling a joint so we don’t need to use a grinder. Keeping it simple makes the ride all that more enjoyable.
Step 4: Put The Cannabis In The Bowl
Using your thumb, press down gently on the mound created in step three. Press the mound until it is even with, or just below, the rim of the bowl. If you don’t pack the bud sufficiently, it won’t burn all that well and can seriously harsh your buzz. That said, you don’t want to pack it too much because that can hinder airflow and result in dead spots.
You’re goal when packing a bowl should be a nice even burn with very few (if any) leftovers.
Step 5: Put The Bowl Back In The Bong
Put the packed bowl back in the bong being careful not to spill your schwag and ruin your hard work. Don’t skip this step or all will be for naught.
Step 6: Light It Up
Apply a flame to the contents of the bowl, set the weed alight, and draw the resultant smoke through the bong using a strong inhale. That’s it! You’ve smoked your first bowl. Nice job. Take a moment to savor the triumph of a job well done.
Mastering The Process
Chances are, you won’t get this right the first time—unless you’re some kind of cannabis savant, in which case, bully for you—but all it takes is a little practice. Until you’ve mastered the process, use the above steps as a guide but feel free to try new things. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and soon you’ll be extolling your mastery of bowl packing to another generation of weed enthusiasts.